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Solidarity forever

Tommy Sheridan says he wants to build a different kind of organisation, not continue to fight internal battles in the SSP

October 1, 2006
4 min read

The splitting of the Scottish Socialist Party is a sad but necessary stage in the development of socialism in Scotland. We in Solidarity, Scotland’s Socialist Movement, have decided not to continue to engage in tearing lumps out of each other in the SSP and have focused instead on building a broader socialist movement, which can reach and mobilise working people in Scotland. My only comment on my case is that when there is a battle between the most reactionary anti-socialist rag in the Murdoch press and a leading socialist, the members of the SSP executive who gave evidence to help the News of the World (against the decision of the SSP national council) were found wanting.

So, rather than continuing the internal battles in the SSP, which would have been a pointless and negative experience, we decided to launch a new organisation: Solidarity, Scotland’s Socialist Movement. We have also decided not to attack the SSP and to attempt to seek an amicable divorce, which safeguards staff and the property of the SSP. Indeed, Rosemary Byrne and I are continuing to pay the mortgage on the SSP HQ despite the fact that they locked us out of it.

I wish I could say that the SSP were being equally amicable but instead they seem to spend most of their time and energy attacking me and Solidarity. As Scottish newspapers noted, their first rally since the split was full of bile and hate. In contrast, the launch rally of Solidarity was filled with outwardlooking speeches fuelled by socialist passion and not rancour. It was also attended by 600 people, twice the number at the SSP rally the day before, and was very representative of the Scotland we want to appeal to.

In particular, there was a very healthy contingent from the trade union movement. Jim Walls, the leader of the 3,500 Scottish opencast miners, spoke and brought with him 100 completed application forms from his union members to join Solidarity. Janice Godrich, the national president of the PCS, spoke and announced that she and a number of the Scottish NEC members of the PCS were joining Solidarity. The organiser of the RMT and several executive members were present and we hope the RMT will be affiliating to Solidarity. A speaker from the FBU was hopeful of support from Scotland’s firefighters.

There were also speakers from the anti-war movement, the women’s movement (indeed, women were strongly represented on the platform, contrary to the myth that this a macho organisation), the lesbian and gay movement, the Muslim and Lebanese community and many others.

At our launch rally our statement of values was passed unanimously (see www.redpepper.org.uk for the full text); and again, contrary to smears, it begins with a demand for an independent socialist Scotland. We in Solidarity want to create a different kind of organisation – broader, more open and more democratic. It will be built from the grassroots up and not dominated by a full-time executive committee that is out of touch with its members as the SSP executive became in latter years. By the time of our first conference in November we confidently expect to have more than a thousand members and be bigger than the SSP.

Of course our real test will come next May in the Scottish Parliament elections. We intend to run a full slate for the parliament, where we hope to win at least one seat, and in selected council seats. Already early opinion polls show we are making an impact. However, we want to appeal not just to the 200,000 voters who voted SSP in 2003 but to the 50 per cent of Scots who didn’t vote last time.

Solidarity is an exciting new departure for socialists. The people of Scotland will decide whether it becomes an important part of the future of Scotland. We want to help create an exciting new Scotland, which is socialist, independent, republican and internationalist. We want also to build strong links with socialists in England and Wales and across Europe and the world.

Scotland has a socialist tradition that has often been ahead of the movement in the rest of Britain. We hope our new movement can give a lead, which will help to build socialism everywhere.

Red Pepper is an independent, non-profit magazine that puts left politics and culture at the heart of its stories. We think publications should embrace the values of a movement that is unafraid to take a stand, radical yet not dogmatic, and focus on amplifying the voices of the people and activists that make up our movement. If you think so too, please support Red Pepper in continuing our work by becoming a subscriber today.
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